Police arrested a Madhya Pradesh Congress leader and two others for allegedly murdering a former American Embassy School staffer, whose body was found in a jungle in Hoshangabad district on Saturday morning.
Leena Sharma – an assistant manager of projects at Delhi’s American Embassy School – went missing on April 29 after a protracted property dispute with the Congress leader Pradeep Sharma, who she used to call her uncle.
Police said her body was found partially decomposed and officials could identify the 40-year-old only from her nails and blonde-coloured hair. The killers had allegedly heaped salt and urea on her body to make it decompose faster, sources said.
The incident came under the spotlight after Leena’s friends started a viral social media campaign to locate her called “Save Leena”.
Police said she quit her job last year and came down to Dudadeh village in Sohagpur to demarcate and build a fence around 35 acres of her ancestral land that Pradeep was allegedly encroaching upon.
Investigators are also probing the role of Leena’s sister Hema in the crime because she took seven days to report the Delhi teacher’s disappearance.
Sources said Pradeep had already encroached upon 10 of the 35 acres and was not happy about Leena coming back to fence the land.
Leena’s friends said her relations with her Pradeep were strained for the last few years because of this issue.
Around two decades ago, Pradeep – a resident of Sagar – was ostracized by his family when he married his niece. Leena’s mother’s elder sister took pity on him and brought him to Sohagpur. That is why Leena called him her uncle.
Sources said after quitting her job last year, Leena came down to Sohagpur several times to get her land demarcated against the wishes of Pradeep and Hema. Hema owned the land jointly with Leena.
Police questioned two aides of Pradeep- Gore Lal, 21 and Rajender, 25, who reportedly revealed how Leena was murdered on April 29 and buried in the nearby Kamati jungle.
Leena finally succeeded in getting her land demarcated on April 24-25 through the intervention of some high-ranking officials in the chief minister’s secretariat.
This angered Pradeep and he had a heated argument with Leena when she went to Dudadeh on April 29 to get the land fenced.
Pradeep and his two aides allegedly hit her with a rod and stones, killing her.
Hoshangabad superintendent of police (SP) AP Singh said the suspects were charged with trying to destroy evidence and committing a crime with common intent.
“Three of Leena’s friends from Bhopal rushed to Sohagpur to identify the body. And they confirmed the body was that of Leena,” said Singh, adding the body had been sent for a post mortem.
Pradeep and Hema had lodged the missing persons complaint with Sohagpur police on May 5, a week after Leena went missing.